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DOR Catholic Schools – 1979 vs 2010

April 1st, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

A few days ago Dr. K. posted a bulletin excerpt from Peace of Christ Parish which  referred to the decline of Catholic schools in Metropolitan Rochester. While not mentioning a precise year, the snippet stated there were once 21 “urban” Catholic schools on the east side of the river and another 14 on the west.

Matthew Clark was installed as Bishop of the Diocese of Rochester in 1979 so that seemed like an interesting year on which to base an historic look at DOR’s Catholic schools. That year’s edition of the Official Catholic Directory showed a total 40 Catholic schools listed under what it termed “Metropolitan Rochester,” 21 of them on the east side and 19 on the west. Also listed were another 9 Monroe County Schools in the OCD’s “Outside Metropolitan Rochester”  category.  A list of those 49 schools and their 1979 enrollments follows.


Monroe County Catholic Schools - 1979

  School                     City/Town Students   Total
  Annunciation               Rochester      196
  Blessed Sacrament          Rochester      138
  Corpus Christi             Rochester      210
  Holy Apostles              Rochester      289
  Holy Cross                 Rochester      282
  Holy Family                Rochester      131
  Holy Rosary                Rochester      330
  Most Precious Blood        Rochester      225
  Our Lady of Good Counsel   Rochester      266
  Our Lady of Perpetual Help Rochester      226
  Sacred Heart               Rochester      423
  St. Ambrose                Rochester      620
  St. Andrew                 Rochester      380
  St. Anthony of Padua       Rochester      193
  St. Augustine              Rochester      339
  St. Boniface               Rochester      260
  St. John the Evangelist    Rochester      299
  St. Monica                 Rochester      315
  St. Philip Neri            Rochester      271
  St. Salome                 Rochester      247
  St. Stanislaus             Rochester      250
  Our Lady of Lourdes        Brighton       180
  Our Lady Queen of Peace    Brighton        96
  St. Anne                   Brighton       210
  St. Thomas More            Brighton       201
  St. Pius Tenth             Chili          588
  Holy Ghost                 Gates          290
  St. Helen                  Gates          415
  St. Theodore               Gates          455
  Our Lady of Mercy          Greece         170
  Our Mother of Sorrows      Greece         460
  St. Charles Borromeo       Greece         462
  St. John the Evangelist    Greece         425
  St. Lawrence               Greece         262
  Guardian Angels            Henrietta      200
  Christ the King            Irondequoit    250
  St. Cecilia                Irondequoit    455
  St. James                  Irondequoit    242
  St. Margaret Mary          Irondequoit    300
  St. Thomas the Apostle     Irondequoit    349
Total – Metro Rochester                          11,900

  Nativity of the B.V.M.     Brockport      175
  St. Jerome                 East Rochester 196
  Good Shepherd              Henrietta      350
  St. Joseph                 Penfield       484
  St. John of Rochester      Perinton       209
  St. Louis                  Pittsford      405
  St. John the Evangelist    Spencerport    265
  Holy Trinity               Webster        366
  St. Rita                   West Webster   431
Total – Outside Metro Rochester                   2,881
Total – Monroe County                            14,781


There were also another 23 Catholic schools in the remaining 11 counties of DOR.

Catholic Schools Outside Monroe County - 1979

  School                  City/Town    Students   Total
  Holy Family             Auburn            110
  St. Hyacinth            Auburn            194
  St. Mary                Auburn            283
  St. Agnes               Avon              137
  St. Mary                Bath              109
  St. Mary                Canandaigua       311
  St. Vincent de Paul     Corning           128
  St. Mary                Dansville         204
  Our Lady of Lourdes     Elmira            197
  St. Casimir             Elmira            205
  St. Mary                Elmira            267
  St. Francis de Sales    Geneva            288
  St. Stephen             Geneva            264
  St. Ann                 Hornell           240
  St. Mary Our Mother     Horseheads        256
  Immaculate Conception   Ithaca            200
  St. Michael             Newark            338
  St. Patrick             Owego             124
  St. Michael             Penn Yan          151
  St. Patrick             Seneca Falls      258
  St. Mary                Waterloo          241
  St. James               Waverly           128
  St. Joseph              Wayland           120
Total - Outside Monroe County                     4,753

Total - All DOR Elementary Schools (1979)        19,534

As seen above, these 72 Catholic elementary schools were educating a total of 19,534 students in 1979.

Fast-foward to 2010

The 2010 edition of the OCD is the latest one available. It shows that last year the diocese had 24 Catholic elementary schools, 11 of which were combined into the Monroe County Catholic School system which did not break down enrollment by school but, instead, provided the OCD with a summary number.

All DOR Catholic Schools (2010)

  School                             City/Town    Students  Total
  Monroe County Catholic Schools - Comprised of      3,446
    Christ the King                  Irondequoit
    Cathedral School at Holy Rosary
      (formerly Holy Rosary)         Rochester
    Seton Catholic
      (formerly Our Lady of Lourdes) Brighton
    Our Mother of Sorrows            Greece
    St. John Neumann
      (formerly St. Ambrose)         Rochester
    St. Joseph                       Penfield
    St. Lawrence                     Greece
    St. Louis                        Pittsford
    St. Pius X                       Chili
    St. Rita                         West Webster
    Siena Catholic Academy
      (formerly St. Thomas More)     Brighton
Total - Monroe County                                       3,446

  St. Joseph                         Auburn            173
  St. Agnes                          Avon              123
  St. Mary                           Canandaigua       202
  All Saints Academy                 Corning           129
  Holy Family                        Elmira            144
  Holy Family Middle                 Elmira             98
  St. Francis de Sales               Geneva            130
  St. Ann                            Hornell            86
  St. Mary Our Mother                Horseheads         98
  Immaculate Conception              Ithaca            106
  St. Michael                        Newark            120
  St. Patrick                        Owego              61
  St. Michael                        Penn Yan          114
Total - Outside Monroe County                               1,584

Total - All DOR Elementary Schools (2010)                   5,030

As the above data shows, the Diocese of Rochester has closed 48 (66.7%) of its 72 Catholic elementary schools and has lost 14,504 (74.3%) of its 19,534 Catholic school students in the first 31 years of Matthew Clark’s tenure as Bishop of Rochester.

It would seem thus difficult to assert that Catholic schools have been high on Bishop Clark’s list of priorities these last 31 years.

UPDATE: I realize the 3 tables above are in a font size so small as to make reading difficult for some.  This seems to be due to a limitation inherent in the WordPress software we use at Cleansing Fire that I have not been able to find a way around.

Those desiring a larger font size may view these tables in PDF format.  Click here.

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28 Responses to “DOR Catholic Schools – 1979 vs 2010”

  1. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Mike, this is a fantastic piece of work. I can’t wait to share it more widely. The demise of the next generation has been meticulously planned and executed. God have mercy, Diane

  2. avatar Anonymous says:

    One excuse for closing schools is finances. Where did all the Wegman money go? We never got any accounting for that. Perhaps the Wegman family knows something we don’t and that’s why they refused to give again. Where is the exhorbitant amount of money in parish subsidies going? We don’t have an accounting for that either. Less kids; less schools; more money going to Buffalo Road. Lisa Passero and Father Hart need to explain. (I doubt that will happen, though.)

  3. avatar Anonymous says:

    Just because a Catholic School is open does not mean Catholic parents are going to send their children there. My wife and are both went to Catholic Schools and we choose to send our four kids to public schools because we live in a great school district and honestly feel our kids are getting a much better education than they can in any Catholic School (that is not meant to be a slam against Catholic Schools but it is our perception). I know our reasoning for not going Catholic Schools is shared by most of my friends from grammar and high school as I see their kids attending public schools. This is another issue Catholics Schools have to contend with besides the cost.

  4. avatar Sfomo says:

    I was a Catholic school teacher who sent her children to public school for financial reasons. My children would have received no tuition remission because I taught for the diocese at a much lower salary than my public school counterparts. I take issue with the idea that the education in public school is superior to Catholic school. Yes, there are services available for special needs children and there are more “extras” available, but the teaching of the basics is comparable, if not better than, the public schools. And parish religious education programs are a very unsatisfactory substitute for the religious training in Catholic schools. (I taught religious ed to public school students for years. Most students and their parents did not take the classes seriously and retention of concepts was extremely lacking because they were not reinforced at home.)

  5. avatar Anonymous says:

    A few observations from one who was a teacher then ( and now) in the catholic School System:
    1) Catholic families were larger in 1979
    2) If a family was Catholic it was just assumed that its children would go to Catholic school
    3)On par with salaries Catholic School tuition was relatively more affordable ( due in large part to the pitifully low salaries of its teachers. In 1979 I was making $7000.00.Even then that was pathetic–but it kept tuition down.)
    4)Parents in the suburbs and parts of the city are less likely today to see the value in Catholic education ( even Rel. Ed. programs in parishes)or in taking their children to Mass, or in even sacramental preparation.It is a different culture today from 1979.
    In a recent study conducted by the DoR , Catholic parents of school age children overwhelmingly listed “Religion” as their lowest priority for sending their children to catholic school. I would hazard a guess ( and since I was in the trenches then I have a pretty good handle on this)that in 1979 Religion would have been up there near the top.
    As far as the Wegman money is concerned, when Bob died the money began to dry up. As the urban Catholic schools closed, the Wegman $ also did. It was intended for inner-city, poor students. There aren’t many at St. Joseph’s or St. Louis..so they wouldn’t be recipients.
    Danny Wegman is concentrating more on his Alma Mater ( McQuaid) and Bob Wegman’s money is tied up with AQ ( his Alma Mater).
    So rather than have “conspiracy theories” abound, let’s look at the facts: Bishop Clark and Fr. Joe Hart have made a bigger mess out of a situation that wasn’t healthy to begin with. They relied way too heavily on “businessmen” and their business ethic which is in many cases irreconcilable. They didn’t really value the connection between catholic School education and evangelization–They dropped the ball.
    And as a side note…I am not so sure that our Catholic School students are any better Catholics than their public school counterparts. After all, Catholic schools are not intended to take the place of true catechesis, which ideally should be family based (Pope John Paul II reminded us so eloquently that parents are the first to bring a child to God), but to fine tune what is already there.

  6. avatar Dan says:

    How many high schools has Bishop Clark closed in the past 31 years?

    All Wichita, Kansas Catholic schools have eliminated tuition for Catholic students. Their Bishop supports Catholic education.

  7. avatar Mike says:

    Dan,

    In 1979 DOR had only one Catholic high school under its direct control (De Sales in Geneva) and that school is still open.

    The other 8 Catholic high schools in DOR in 1979 were under private control of one form or another. Three of them have since closed (St. Agnes, Cardinal Mooney and Nazareth Academy) and 5 remain open (Aquinas, Bishop Kearney, McQuaid and Our Lady of Mercy – all in Monroe County – and Notre Dame in Elmira).

  8. avatar militia says:

    I would like to know when the Diocese “took over” Catholic Schools, how much “cash” and other liquid assets were on their balance sheets AND now that the leftover schools are returning to parish control (e.g. St. Louis in Pittsford) how much cash and liquid asset is being returned to the parish? Did Diocesan control enrich the position of the school or skim its money?

  9. avatar Mike says:

    militia,

    From my post of August 31, 2010

    A brief history of diocesan control of Monroe County’s Catholic schools

    In June 1988 there were 39 parish-run, Catholic elementary schools in Monroe County educating 16,044 children. That fall all those schools were removed from parish control and organized into a quadrant system. One year later the downsizing began with the closure of 8 schools.

    In the fall of 1994 the quadrant system was replaced by the Monroe County Catholic School System and by 1995-96 we were down to 30 schools and 7,606 students. Loss of students and school closings continued over the next decade and by 2005-06 those numbers had fallen to 24 and 4,806.

    June 2008 brought with it the closing of another 13 schools and the following fall the 11 survivors opened with roughly 3,700 students. In 2009-10 that latter number had fallen to 3,446.

    This fall two of these schools will revert to parish control and the combined enrollment at the remaining 9 is expected to be down about 100 students.

    Nationwide Catholic elementary school data as found in various editions of the Official Catholic Directory shows a 20% decline in the number of schools from 1994 to 2010, along with a 26% decline in the number of students. In that same period Monroe County has seen a 72% decline in its number of Catholic schools and a 77% decline in Catholic school students.

    This is by far the worst record among similar-sized dioceses in the U.S.

    As to the details of the financial transactions involved, if any, I have no information.

  10. avatar j.g. says:

    WOW!!when i’ve thought about it,it has bothered me ..but looking at the numbers above(having been one of the pupils in a counted school) im floored.Its funny i just saw a series on youtubeArchbishop Leferbve addressing people in Ottawa & speaking of Catholics sending their children to public/protestant schools..you send children to Catholic schools to mainly to help form their faith..not for college placements,advanced classes,a trade or sports (ie Aquinas).In saying that i know of many children i went to elementary Catholic school with & are no longer practicing Catholics if Catholics at all.

  11. avatar Monk says:

    This fine article sheds much light on the priorites in the DoR and why our Catholic schools and parishes are falling apart:
    Redistributing Wealth

  12. avatar Susan says:

    Just a note: Some Catholic school students weren’t counted. For Corning in 1979, only St. Vincent’s (where I was) is listed. 128 sounds right. St. Mary’s in Corning, which covered the south side of the city, is not listed. It was a K-8, which might be why it didn’t show up in the stats. Their K-5 population was about the same as St. Vincent’s.

    It’s likely there were other schools in the diocese in 1979 which weren’t covered in these stats, meaning even more Catholic students.

  13. avatar Anonymous says:

    Danny Wegman did graduate from McQuaid..and he is NOT giving more to AQ. Get your facts straight. Also, all the Catholic high schools in the Rochester Diocese are operated independently from the Bishop. They have Boards of Trustees.
    Again, it is clear that the diocesan office of Catholic Schools really screwed up–almost all of the staff from 5 years ago is gone. They are an incompetent group of idiots who spend way more money and time on frivolities than on the essentials. Bishop Clark and Fr. hart really do not want the “bother” of diocesan schools. In 1994 they messed up with the “quadrant” system and now they want to backtrack. What a mess!
    However..where are the Catholic parents? Where is the support from the pews?

  14. avatar Mike says:

    Susan,

    That’s very interesting. I just went back and checked the 1979 OCD to make sure I didn’t miss St. Mary’s – and I didn’t. The parish is listed, but there’s no school-related data reported.

  15. avatar Mike says:

    Anon. 7:09,

    I know of one instance where roughly 250 parents tried to tell Bishop Clark and his MCCS superintendent that they were about to make a very stupid move and neither one was willing to listen to them.

    I wrote about it here two years ago. The pertinent paragraphs follow …

    On Thursday evening, November 14, 2002 over 250 people attended a parent feedback meeting at Bishop Kearney High School. The topic under discussion was a diocesan proposal to more closely base Catholic school tuition on family income.

    At the heart of that proposal was the notion that wealthier families should be paying more out-of-pocket to help support poorer ones. Of course, precisely who was “wealthier” and who was “poorer” would be determined by the diocese.

    According to a D&C article appearing the following morning, there was virtual unanimity among those parents that such a proposal would only drive substantial numbers of children out of our Catholic schools. When MCCS Superintendent Sister Elizabeth Meegan asked the group, “There have to be some people in here that will be helped by the new system?” she got no response.

    We all know the ultimate outcome. Bishop Clark totally ignored the input of those parents, in the process allowing Sister Elizabeth’s ideology to trump what should have been blindingly obvious reality, and gave his blessing to her tuition plan.

    As one parent later reported, “Our tuition increased by over 40%. … Many families couldn’t afford the increase, few families qualified for adequate financial aid and the enrollment of our schools went on a downfall.” Yes, I’m sure some of those families could have afforded the increased cost and stayed in the system, but the reports I have heard confirm that most could not.

    For the record, when Sister Elizabeth arrived in DOR in 2001 enrollment was at 7,127. When she left 5 years later it was down to 4,806. 2,321 children (32.6%) had left the system in a mere 5 years. (How she ever landed another job is an utter mystery to me.)

  16. avatar Anonymous says:

    Correction to chart above, in 1979 Corning had two Catholic Schools, St. Vincent De Paul (k-5)
    and St. Mary(k-8).

  17. avatar Mike says:

    Anon. 9:57,

    See Susan’s comment and my reply, both above.

    I have no idea why the St. Mary’s school data is not listed in the 1979 OCD, but it’s simply not there. See for yourself (here), starting at the bottom of the left-most column.

  18. avatar Susan says:

    Hi Mike,

    I think there were two schools in Elmira at the time that aren’t in the table either: St. Patrick’s and St. Anthony’s. Interesting.

  19. avatar Dan says:

    Can you verify the fact that Cardinal Mooney High School may have been owned by the Diocese of Rochester. Thousands of families and individuals in the diocese donated money for the construction of the school.

    Bishop Matthew Clark has been blamed for many years for the closing of the school and sale to the Greece School District.

  20. avatar Anonymous says:

    Dan,

    I recall the fund drive but I have no recollection of what entity was actually collecting the money – whether it was the diocese, the Brothers of the Holy Cross or someone else.

    A little searching with Google uncovered a blog devoted to Cardinal Mooney (see here). It has a copy of a June 4, 1989 D&C article reporting on an interview with Bishop Clark where he is quoted as saying,

    By long tradition, the high schools are owned and operated by the religious communities that sponsor them or by independent boards.

    They operate with the permission of the bishop and they are responsible to the bishop for the content of their religious instruction and a few other things.

    But otherwise they are independent.

    … it’s important to remember that the brothers closed the school. They did not come to a certain point and then recommend that I close the school. The brothers closed the school. It was their decision and they made it.

    FWIW, that “long tradition” the bishop spoke about dates back to the late 1930s when Aquinas, originally a diocesan high school, was transferred to the Basilian Fathers.

  21. avatar Mike says:

    Dan,

    That last comment was from me. I didn’t realize I wasn’t logged in.

  22. avatar Anonymous says:

    Don’t forget the students at Archangels and St John Bosco Schools. About 100 students at each school. Archangels has been in existence for 20 or so years and SJBS for 3.

  23. avatar Anonymous says:

    Archangel school is K-12. With 100 students. K-12…

  24. avatar Dr. K says:

    Archangel school is K-12. With 100 students. K-12…

    What’s your point?

  25. avatar Mike says:

    Anons. 7:00 & 7:27,

    I’m well aware of Archangel (and John Bosco), but in this post we’re only looking at the elementary schools operated by either parishes or the diocese. Sorry if I wasn’t too clear about that.

  26. avatar Dan says:

    I am curious to find out if Bishop Clark ended up with a portion of the millions of dollars from the sale of Cardinal Mooney High School.

    I noticed in Bishop Clark’s interview that there is no indication of who will get the money from the sale of the school. What is the big secret? The parishioners in the Diocese of Rochester paid for the school.

    Bishop Clark played the “blame someone else” game in the closing and sale of Mooney. He became a master at that game with all of the school closings and the parishioners believed him for about 20 years, until he was exposed on the Internet.

  27. avatar Mike says:

    Dan,

    You need to find someone who contributed to the fund drive to build the school and ask them to whom they made their check payable. If it was to the diocese, then they’ve got a gripe with the diocese. If it was to the Brothers of the Holy Cross, then they’ve got a gripe with the brothers. And even if it was to the diocese, DOR could have later transferred or sold the school to the brothers, so their gripe would still be with the brothers.

    The first article on the Mooney blog I mentioned above appears to be from a 1960 Greece paper and it says the school was being built by the diocese. That might mean the diocese was the original owner and it might not (local newspapers, in my experience, frequently get such details wrong).

    You could settle the issue by going to the Greece town assessors office and research ownership of the property prior to the school district buying it. That might go some distance towards resolving your conspiracy theory one way or the other.

  28. avatar Mike says:

    Dan,

    Here is the property on the Monroe County site. You’ll probably have to check with Greece Town Hall officials to get ownership history.


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